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Thursday, 29 September 2011

REVIEW: Power DVD by Jimmy Smith & Joe DeFranco

I've just watched the new DVD from Jimmy Smith (of diesel crew) & Joe DeFranco. Their first product together was the amped warm-up DVD Both DeFranco & Smitty are what I think of as motivational trainers. They often don't offer too much that is astounding or new, but they are really good at getting something special from their athletes. If you are new to developing power in your own workout or in people you train then this will be an eye opener. If you've studied training for a while you will probably pick up a move or two. Mainly you get a whole lot of motivation & drive to get to the gym & train yourself or your athletes! I think both DeFranco & Smitty share that same gift of firing up their clients & this comes across in their DVD presentations as well. The DVD is broken down into upper body, lower body, full body & it does really cover a wide range of movements quite quickly with the minimum of fuss. If you're looking for a Gary Gray style explanation of movement patterns this won't be the DVD for you, but if you want a decent list of movements that will develop athletically usable power on the field then this might be the tool for you. I really enjoyed watching this product as I sometimes like to turn off the more cerebral portion of the brain, just get down to to the "Here's some moves that will make you flipping strong!". You don't need to know what muscle inserts where, what tendon is attached where, just pick up the big thing & carry it, throw it or lift it over your head! You will learn how to do all that as safely as you can with this DVD. Basically this is a blue print for building a big 'Mofo' with the where-with-all to run at you & knock you over like a freight train! If you're interested in the Power DVD you can check it out at:

Vitashine vitamin D3 spray

I've just received my first batch of Vitashine Vitamin D3 spray a few days ago, so I thought I'd give you a quick write-up as this is (to my knowledge) the first vegan D3 available in the UK. I know you may have several questions. First off what is the difference between the vegan vitamin D that you can get now (D2) & this newer product which is D3. I won't get all technical as these days you can look up details like that on wikipedia, but the basics are that D2 is a type of vitamin D available from some plants (like mushrooms exposed to UV rays), this is not identical to the vitamin D you have in your bodies; it is close, but not identical, whereas vitamin D3 is identical to the vitamin your body produces. Some studies have pointed out that vitamin D2 may not be as efficiently utilised as D3 in the body - the studies are mixed in this regard. I know there are some people making big claims about the "dangers" of D2, these are false judging by most of the research out there...but most studies that show a difference tend to show that vitamin D3 works much more efficiently in the body because it's the same stuff you make yourself, so it is going to be used in the best manner.

So, with that said I chose the move to vit D3 as it seemed to me that using a vitamin that replicates the bodies own vitamin (rather than a near copy) might give me better results in terms of assimilation & utilisation. Vitamin D is not like a creatine, or a stimulant; you won't get an immediate buzz or gain 5 pounds of muscle weight in a week, although if you are very low you might get some strength gains. Vitamin D for the athlete does everything it does for 'normal' people, stronger bones, stronger teeth, etc, but some other factors also come into play a little more than the average person. The main asset, in my view, about vitamin D is immune normalisation. Many studies have shown that vitamin D can boost lowered immune systems & as athletes one of our problems is we do compromise our immune systems by training very hard, very frequently & in some cases we diet on top of that! I don't care how 'fit' you are, fitness & health are not identical terms & often to get fit for our chosen activity we are forced to compromise on our ability to fight off infection. Vitamin D is great for aiding the immune system in 'bouncing back' & so could aid you in fighting off that infection, also in some studies it appears that diseases like influenza (real flu, not those sniffles you had the other day) could be harder to catch with a higher level of vitamin D than is average today - that 'could' also work with other viruses, I've not found studies, but it would make sense. Other factors are low vitamin D can affect cardiovascular health, so bear that in mind as in some studies many people in the UK & US have been found to be low in this vital vitamin. You can have a test if you are particularly worried, but for the vast majority taking between 1-2,000 IUs a day will keep them at a reasonable vitamin D level.

So, for a few squirts of this vitamin D you'll get an improved immune system response, improved bone & teeth, as vitamin D can affect on your hormones you could get an improved hormone profile, so I'd suggest you take it if you have any concerns about your vitamin D levels.

Let's get to usage of the product - it was pretty easy to use, just open your mouth & squirt. Even I couldn't go very wrong with that one! It does have a very slight taste of oil that lasts for a few seconds, if you really can't stand the taste of oil I suppose you could squirt it into a fake milk or onto food, I've not tried that, but I can't see why you couldn't. I actually liked the product quite a bit & asked them if they'd be interested in giving us a few of their products to give to the winners of our contests which they agreed to do. As I said you won't take one squirt & then be ready to step onto the bodybuilding stage, but it could help you get less illness, so train more consistently, so make more gains, so achieve your goals more quickly, it could also affect bone & teeth health in a positive way which again can only be a good thing. All in all I'd say it was worth at least giving it a go if you have any concerns about your vitamin D levels. Right now (in the UK) you are at your highest levels of vitamin D if you've been out in the sun WITHOUT sunscreen (sunscreen blocks the bodies ability to produce vitamin D), but even so from here until summer 2012 your levels will be falling unless you take some action right now & keep those levels nice & high. What's more it may mean less illness over the winter months & so by summer 2012 you'll be looking pretty awesome with 6 months of consistent training under your belt!

If you're interested you can check out vitashine at

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

REVIEW: Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘Convict conditioning’.  It was an interesting read...but....the author had some unfounded views about both using external weights & bodyweight exercise.  Let’s look at some of his views (I am paraphrasing his views below):

VIEW: Bodyweight exercise makes ones joints stronger & healthier for life, whereas weight training destroys joints.
RESPONSE: Well, not necessarily, if you’ve known any gymnasts then you will realise that they are more often than not suffering wrecked joints & most use ONLY body weight exercise, they also suffer unbalanced development between muscles pretty much universally, so using bodyweight alone will not guarantee healthy joints.

VIEW: Body weight is a natural way to move ergo it is superior.
RESPONSE: SOME body weight exercises move the body in a natural way, so something like a squat would be a normal way to move to the body, but would the same thing be true of a walking on the hands?  When in nature did a human walk on their hands, or do a planché push-up, or do as the author has done a one hand handstand push-up.  In nature these things are not done, so if only move done in nature should be done, then these should not be done.

VIEW: Weights are not used in nature, so as you are never exposed to them in nature you should not be exposed to them in training.
RESPONSE: This is false.  Let’s give some examples.  I want to move a big rock, it’s in my way.  I pick it up!  I meet an awful guy who comes into my house & wants to abuse my family.  I fight him, throw him about a bit, lift him up & chuck him out of my home!  My friend falls off a cliff, he’s hanging on for dear life, I grab his arm & rescue him.  I’m a hero!  In nature you carry children, sick people to safety, food & supplies...the list is endless & humans have done it since we first became upright.  Carrying stuff, moving stuff, even heavy stuff is as nature to a human as moving their own body.

On the plus side I would say he is right about the need to be able to display strength & being able to use the body is important.  I would say if you can’t do push-ups, full squats & pull-ups at the very least, then you need to spend some time learning to use your body.  I have seen massive guys who can’t do anything, sometimes they can’t even lift their arms over their heads as they have damaged their bodies so much through improper weight training over many years (often they focussed on the ‘T-shirt muscles’).   I do believe that you build a decent physique using bodyweight alone, but I believe you can also do that by including weights as well (yes even the odd machine if you wish to).
So, to sum up I found the book useful in terms of which exercises you can do, the progressions & methodology, but on the other I found it a little too zealot, he was certain he was right & everyone else was wrong, his was the only right way.  Well in truth anyone who says that is actually wrong.  Not every athlete today is a steroid user, I know many who are not, but are as good, if not better than any old-time athlete in their field as they combine modern nutrition, with modern pre-hab, screening & training to produce a better result than they knew how to achieve years ago-I’m sorry but it is true!   Most, if not all use weight training to achieve strength, then skill training to attain maximum performance.  Could you use body weight training & skill training to achieve the same results?  Maybe in some cases, but some of the progressions would be no good in some cases, it depends on the sport & the movement in question, so the answer is not as easy as it sounds.  The idea of building strength, then displaying strength is not new.  The author states that’s body weight exercise was around when the Greeks where training.  Well so was lifting external weights!  In fact the most famous story in weight training is about the Greek wrestler Milo.  He was unbeatable (by all the other wrestlers who I presume just did calisthenics), his secret?  He carried a baby bull everyday on his shoulders around an arena & as it slowly grew, so he became stronger, yes he used progressive resistance with an external weight!  I know that’s not a very ethical story (using an animal), but it does demonstrate that the Greeks understood that external loads where important.  Further more in every culture where strength is admired they tend to use external loads as well as body weight movements.  In Japanese martial arts they use heavy club-like tools, in Indian wrestling they use heavy maces, in colder climates lifting ‘manhood stones’, in other cultures heavy stone throwing for distance, the list goes on!  I did a quick google search as I seemed to remember that even in ancient Egypt they practiced a form of weight lifting & sure enough it seems there is evidence that they did!  So my view is that both body movement & weights make the best combination of exercises for a human & have done at least as long as we’ve had methods of recording information!

To prove my point himself the author on page 26 talks about John Grimek.  Yes John did do some bodyweight movements, he was very gymnastic.  He was also a World class weightlifter & bodybuilder.  He was in fact known to practice “1001 exercises”, from the old time bent press (yes ‘bent’, not ‘bench’), to Olympic weightlifting, to curling a barbell & was even deadlifting a decent weight well into old age, he could also walk on his hands, tumble & do other gymnastic feats.  So, the author actually proves the point that weights plus learning to use the body correctly is actually a good method to achieve results.  The other example is Doug Hepburn who again started lifting weights & went on to Olympic fame as a weightlifter, so it was the bodyweight/weights combination that appeared to work best for him as well – as a side note Doug later in his life set some records for lifting when over 70 years old as a strict vegetarian that as far as I know have yet to be beaten.

Having said all that I do think the book is worth reading.  You do not have to swallow the dogma of the author, but you can use the exercises, progressions & ideas in your training!  Plus let’s face it, doing a one arm chin, a planché push-up or walking on your hands does look pretty cool to most people!

OK let’s get to the good part of the book.  The exercises & progressions!  First off these are all pretty good.  Even those in post rehab should be able to do most of the easier progressions (as normal check with your medical advisor first) & you can move on to some really advanced progressions that will challenge just about anyone.
The exercises are broken down into 6.  These are the push-up, the squat, the pull-up, the straight leg raise, the bridge & the handstand push-up.

The progressions are broken into 10, so each of those 6 exercises start with a dead easy version that most people can do, then each of the 10 variations get slightly harder until you reach a REALLY hard ‘Master step’ (as it’s called, the hardest version possible).  So in the book you get 60 exercises fully explained with photos & written descriptions, along with that you get a whole pile of variations to do if you feel like a change & also some variations to go beyond the ‘master step’ once that is mastered.  So, basically you get a LOT of information for your money.  In the end the author does the pragmatic thing & does include details about how to add to bodyweight moves to a program using weights.  This is great as most of his audience will be iron-heads so it makes sense to include that even if the author does not agree with their use.

Overall, if you ignore rhetoric & focus on the training it is a good book.  I know you seem to need a ‘hook’ for products these days, so I suggest you ignore the title, ignore the rhetoric , but take the training seriously as it could be useful for you.  Finally if you are looking for a bodyweight exercise program, then this would be a good option.  For those who train with weights it gives you a reasonable ‘game plan’ for adding in some bodyweight stuff that will challenge you over time.
My final point is do what the book says & start with level 1 even if you can do more & spend say at least 4 weeks on every level before moving on (as you progress you may need more than 4 weeks before progressing up a level,  but probably not for the first few levels if you are healthy).  I think the program is pretty good & you should get good results. You’ll also be able to impress your friends with some fun bodyweight ‘tricks’ like 1 arm chins, 1 arm push-ups & other cool stunts!

On a (kind of) unrelated point it's also good to support vegans if they end up in prison (easily done with the draconian laws they have these days), so pop over to the Vegan Prisoners Support Group & help vegans in prison get ethical food choices, toiletries, clothing etc.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

REVIEW: Dan John's Intervention DVD set

Check out Intervention for yourself here (or if you're round my way & have 4 hours spare we can sort out a viewing for you :-)

I thought I’d try something a little bit different as I thought that maybe you’d like to see some of the training-related products I buy or people I know have purchased & I get to see. These products range from bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman & related subjects, through nutrition & recovery therapies. I try to spend about an hour a day either reading or viewing something from the above subject (often more than one as I swap from product to product as the mood takes me-I’m a little ADD when it comes to training stuff!).

So, for my first review of products I think I’ll do Dan John’s DVD set called “Intervention”. This isn’t a vegan product, but a training product. Intervention is a 3 disc set where Dan first explains his philosophy then puts selected people through some movements he believes are especially important. To sum it up Dan repeats himself a lot, he preaches pretty basic lifting & he doesn’t blow your mind with a fantastic Latin vocabulary as he talks about muscles & movement. To put it into one sentence I like Dan John a lot! All his training ideas make sense (to a basic guy like me anyway), his ideas can all be backed up with common sense (if you haven’t picked up something heavy & carried it before then do that, you WILL get stronger & become a better athlete). A lot of vegans won’t like his dietary ideas (I don’t) & the velocity diet is not the most nutritional sound idea I’ve ever heard of, but it’s his training ideas I like. So, who should get the Intervention DVD? If you want to get strong I’d suggest you get it. It may not be the best fat loss package as you’d need a dietary side covered in more detail, but the training would benefit a lot of ladies & gents looking to lose fat.

I think even athletes like runners, cyclists etc will benefit from this (yes even you need to weight train as well I’m afraid). This would be ideal for any sports person, any beginner strongman or lady, or a beginner in any strength activity. It could also be useful as a change of pace for those into specific strength sports like powerlifting, Olympic lifting etc if you need a change for a cycle during your off-season. As I said also those wishing to lose fat could be helped if you included a whole food vegan diet into the mix as you’d lose fat & add muscle which would make you look awesome!

You can see if you like Dan’s style by nipping over to & seeing if he’s the type of guy you want to hear speak for quite a few hours!

Anyway, as this is a little bit of a expansion of the blog including some reviews let me know what you think? Do you want more of the same, less? Let me know below! Assuming people don’t demand I stop doing reviews I’ll keep adding them as I finish watching/reading them so you can keep up with what’s new & exciting in the way of information in the training world.

Oh yea as a final side note I’m doing these off my own back. To keep things real & allow me to be ‘cutting’ when necessary I do not intend to affiliate or get any inducement from any product reviewed. They will all be stuff either me or my friends have bought so any view I express will be my true feeling on the matter- if that upsets some people then so be it (as I’ve seen some dire products out there – shake weight anyone!). So just to be clear I will make nothing from any review, ever, period! Just so you know.